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The table on the number of public holidays African countries has intrigued me. I presumed that, somehow, the more successful economies on the continent – South Africa, Tunisia, Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius – would have the least public holidays because they are too busy getting on with making money, and thus have little time for slumber. The data partly supports this view, because it is the poorer nations; Burkina Faso, Benin, Angola, Tanzania, that have the most holidays. Okay, you would argue, they are poor because they lose so many days in celebrations.
However, that would be wrong because the poorest ones; Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, have the least holidays. So hard work, all the time, seems not to pay well. Perhaps the optimum number of holidays is between 9 and 14. All the rich nations – Botswana, Morocco, South Africa, and Mauritius – fall in that bracket.
The big surprise to me, though, was that the table turned out to be a tentative measure of religious tolerance in Africa. Whereas most Christian-dominated countries in Africa have calendarised big Muslim celebrations as national holidays, predominantly Muslims ones don’t do so as much. In fact in the whole of North Africa, there is virtually no holiday for Christianity’s big days. Muslim generosity towards Christian days, however, improves considerably once you begin to move into West Africa and further down to East Africa.